and once, they say, there was a chill farm here:
ice and smoke-breath and shivers
ramshackling round a pond
with a loneliness
that kept london at bay
I’m not sure exactly when it was I first thought of you. It was some time that summer, the one I wasted so brilliantly – swimming, liking girls from a safe distance and wishing I was Jairzinho. Somewhere else, across the sea, your mother was strolling down country roads, sitting dreaming by furze bushes, waiting for your song to arrive. When it came, she kept that song for ten years, then another ten, kept it for you. And then, when I met her, she taught it to me. I changed some of the words; the melody was forever. We sang the song together, her and me, the morning we invited you into our world; nine months later I heard it in your cries, a year later in your first laugh. As time passed, we taught your song to our friends and family. When life hurt you, someone would sing your song to you, ease you and hold you with it. When you started to do all the things we knew you would, when you won something, when you passed something, whenever our gods smiled on you: we sang it then too. You fell over once and we sang your song; we sang it on that first day at school. And when you did something wrong or hurt anyone, when the world’s disinterest seemed unjust and you tried to set it right, we sang your song more lovingly, more warmly, sang it louder and clearer. Soon, you will think of a child yourself, head out and away from the world for a while; you too will wait for a child’s song to come to you. When it comes, you’ll welcome it. I hope I have a chance to sing that one too.
Old dunes hide us. Spoon-curved sand glides over ages
to the sea. The edges of the world stay visible, this time.
Blindly we grope for kindness, lying – gentled and oxidised
by hope – with the bones of the bent-spined land that formed us.
The place we were born in has gone. A mother cries for her child
as you take my hand: one sun in the sky, one still on the ground.
On the pier the sea-tired wood creaks.
Night waits and the far-off, blue-red rage
Of the terminal roars in horizoned silence.
Sometimes, wherever I am, you’re there.
The Mistimed Hook
For a moment, for your whole lifetime
I hang over England, over the pitch,
Over your fluttering eyes, over your future.
Red-scarred leather, I wink at a gull,
Wink at heaven and earth,
Hang for one more moment.
I hear your friends’ cries: ‘Catch it!’
And at that point I know.
Newton shoots me down,
Quick as disappointment,
Towards your eager hands.
I grab your half-smile
And let you embrace me
For the last time.
You took me in your morning hands
And wondered whether to read me.
My sheets sat crinkled, imperfect,
My skin stained with ink and time.
Once, you’d taken me to bed with you
And watched me in the bath, on a beach,
Stared at words and a heart
You could never understand.
Now and suddenly I’m not quite good enough
And you shove my flaws back in your bag
Decide to lie about me instead.
Walk out the main entrance of Waterloo station, down the steps. You’ll see the Hole In The Wall across the road. I’ll be in there, it’ll be 1994, there’ll be ten Rothmans and a bag of crisps on the table in front of me, some rugby match roaring on the telly in the back bar. We’ll have a pint.
Leave me in the pub, head for the river. Out on the chill, windswept terrace of the Royal Festival Hall you’ll find me with a glass of wine and a far-too-beautiful woman. Don’t look her in the eye. Ask her about her latest play. It’ll be Christmas, 1972.